NASA’S New Horizons Spacecraft is on Target for a Close Pass of Kuiper Belt (Download PDF)


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After a record-setting course-correction, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is on target for a close pass of Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69, coming within just 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) at 12: 33 a. m. EST on Jan. 1.

Image Of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft

Image Of NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft

Image Of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft

This composite image of Ultima Thule was taken just 33 hours before the Dec. 2,2018

  • New Horizons’ encounter with MU69, which orbits the Sun about a billion miles beyond Pluto, will offer the first close-up look at such a pristine building block of the solar system

  • Both 2014 MU69 (nicknamed “Ultima Thule”) and Pluto are in the Kuiper Belt—a donut-shaped region of icy bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune.

  • There may be millions of these icy objects, collectively referred to as Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) or trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), in this distant region of our solar system.

  • The Kuiper Belt is truly a frontier in space – it’s a place we’re still just beginning to explore and our understanding is still evolving.

About Kuiper Belt

The Kuiper Belt is a large region in the cold, outer reaches of our solar system beyond the orbit of Neptune, sometimes called the “third zone” of the solar system. Astronomers think there are millions of small, icy objects in this region – including hundreds of thousands that are larger than 60 miles (100 kilometers) wide.

Image Of About Kuiper Belt

Image Of About Kuiper Belt

Image Of About Kuiper Belt

These two multiple-exposure images from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope show Kuiper Belt objects

  • Some, including Pluto, are over 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) wide. In addition to rock and water ice, objects in the Kuiper Belt also contain a variety of other frozen compounds like ammonia and methane.

  • The region is named for astronomer Gerard Kuiper, who published a scientific paper in 1951 that speculated about objects beyond Pluto.

  • Astronomer Kenneth Edgeworth also mentioned objects beyond Pluto in papers he published in the 1940s, and thus it’s sometimes referred to as the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt.

  • Some researchers prefer to call it the Trans-Neptunian Region, and refer to Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) as trans-Neptunian objects, or TNOs.


  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  • Headquarters: Washington, D. C. , United States

  • Founder: Dwight D. Eisenhower

  • Founded: 29 July 1958, United States of America

- Published/Last Modified on: March 15, 2019

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